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Liverpool 2 Wolves 0 – report

By Tim Spiers | Wolves | Published:

Two Sadio Mane goals saw Wolves lost 2-0 at title-chasing Liverpool on the final day.

Wolves lost 2-0 at Anfield

Liverpool took an early lead through Mane's close range strike but Wolves improved as the half went on and struck the bar just before the break via Matt Doherty's effort.

Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota spurned great chances with Wolves dominating after the break as news filtered through that Manchester City were winning comfortably at Brighton.

However near the end Mane added a second to seal the win for the Reds.

Analysis

The history books will show that, as last December, Liverpool beat Wolves by two goals to nil.

However that scoreline does this undaunted second half display by Nuno Espirito Santo's team a huge disservice, writes Tim Spiers at Anfield.

After a first half in which they occasionally looked a little overawed, or at the very least just not themselves, Wolves approach the second period with adventure.

They'd hit the bar via the exceptional Matt Doherty at the end of the first half and in the second they went close on several occasions in what was one-way traffic at times in front of the Kop.

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Ultimately, a special result to end a special season wasn't to be theirs, with an excellent Liverpool team ended their campaign with yet another victory, albeit not the title they so craved at the start of the day.

In front of surely their largest global watching audience of the season – and perhaps ever – Wolves were, as we knew they wouldn't be, no shrinking violets.

The likes of Doherty, Diogo Jota, Raul Jimenez and Jonny Castro Otto took the game to the Reds and their endeavours were worthy of a point.

The clinical finishing of Sadio Mane was the reason they didn't get one – and a more prolific touch in front of goal is something Nuno & Co will be looking to add to this quality-rich squad in the summer.

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That's for another day, but what is unquestionable is that Wolves have the platform and the foundations from which to do something even more impressive than they've done in 2018/19.

This valiant performance was yet more proof, not that it was required, that Wolves are here to stay.

Match report

Nuno went with his strongest XI possible, naming the same team as for Wolves' last four matches. There was no Romain Saiss on the bench, with youngster Max Kilman taking his place.

Matt Doherty was back at the ground where he made his Wolves debut some eight years ago. Here he made his 252nd appearance for the club.

Liverpool's line-up was also as expected. Gini Wijnaldum and Divock Origi got the nod over James Milner and Daniel Sturridge.

Around the stadium the atmosphere was buzzing hours before kick-off as expectant Liverpool fans soaked up some glorious Merseyside sunshine – and the noise before which greeted the teams was deafening in the Anfield bear-pit.

Wolves, as they generally do, remained unruffled by the big occasion and, as they have against other big sides this season, sat deep in the early stages to get a foothold in the game.

Origi, who Wolves enquired about last summer and has come to the fore with crucial goals for Liverpool in the past week, had the game's first shot in anger when he drilled at Rui Patricio.

Otherwise it was a fairly tepid start – until the Reds took the lead in the 17th minute when Trent Alexander-Arnold played a one-two to skip past Jonny Castro Otto and cross low for Sadio Mane who couldn't miss from six yards.

Ryan Bennett blocked Mo Salah's shot and then Patricio got behind an Andy Robertson rocket as Liverpool pegged Wolves back and looked for a second.

A surreal few minutes then took hold at Anfield as news reached the stadium that Brighton had scored at the Amex against Manchester City. The whole place went berserk with the celebrations as frenzied as if Liverpool had scored a last-gasp winner. Then as City equalised and soon took the lead, the Wolves supporters were the ones cheering and chanting "City, City".

On the field, the game, surely as a result, died a death.

With the home tea affected by the chaos in the stands, Wolves began to venture forward with more confidence.

Diogo Jota set Raul Jimenez gallivating down the left but he wasted his pass with three players to aim for.

Then came arguably the move of the matches as Wolves came within inches of equalising. Otto scampered down the flank and cut the ball inside where Jimenez dummied for Jota who fed Matt Doherty – and his 18-yard effort smashed off the crossbar.

It was a promising Wolves moment to end a bizarre half of football, in which they'd tended to misplace too many passes and didn't play their natural game. All that changed after the restart.

Nuno's team attempted to take the game by the scruff of the neck at the start of the second half. Doherty couldn't quite get a shot away when well placed and then Jimenez and Jota were both a whisker away from being played in via promising through balls which Liverpool's centre halves got to first.

There was definitely more gumption about Wolves, who got in Liverpool's faces via bookings in quick succession for Bennett and Jota.

They were showing less respect for the Reds – and it was working.

Leander Dendoncker destructively won back possession in the Liverpool half and fed a rampaging Doherty whose cross just evaded Jimenez, before Origi hammered a volley over the bar at the other end.

As news of a third Manchester City goal spread around Anfield it felt like a result was there for the taking for confident Wolves, who were thriving in the Anfield sunshine.

Doherty, who was enjoying a very productive half in behind Robertson, passed to Jimenez in a great position 12 yards out but he scuffed his shot well wide.

Wolves were dominating the game and they should have equalised when Doherty lifted a piercing pass over the top where Jimenez dummied for Jota who was through on goal – but Alisson raced from his line to smother the shot.

Jimenez then flicked Jonny's cross towards Jota and his point-blank-range header was saved by Alisson, but Liverpool mustered a rare attempt at the other end when Wijnaldum couldn't covert at the back post.

As City scored a fourth the away supporters, who had adopted the role of wind-up merchants with no little relish, sang "Raheem Sterling, he's top of the league" to a chorus of boos from the home fans.

With 10 minutes to go Adama Traore replaced the excellent Doherty as Wolves searched for an equaliser to end their season perfectly in front of the Kop.

However it was Liverpool, against the run of play who doubled their lead via the same combination for their first goal, with Mane converting Alexander-Arnold's cross, albeit from an offside position.

Van Dijk headed against the top of the bar as Liverpool almost scored a third, before Morgan Gibbs-White and Ruben Vinagre replaced Moutinho and Otto with a few minutes left.

The closing stages passed by without incident as the Reds held out comfortably.

Key moments

18 - Goal! The Reds take the lead through Mane! Alexander-Arnold plays a clever one-two with Henderson to get around Otto before crossing it low for Mane, who comes up with a first-time finish from six yards.

44 - Crossbar! A brilliant counter-attack almost sees Nuno's side grab an equaliser. Otto passes it to Jota, and he feeds Doherty, whose sharp side-footed effort clips the woodwork on its way over.

69 - Another Wolves opening - and perhaps the biggest of the lot! Doherty's involved yet again with a piercing pass from deep. Jimenez dummies and lets it run to Jota, who is denied one-one-one by Alisson.

73 - It is one-way traffic now, but Wolves still cannot find a way past Alisson. Otto chips the ball to Jimenez, and he heads it to Jota, who nods it into the Brazilian's hands from point-blank range.

81 - Goal! Liverpool make sure of the victory as Mane scores his second of the afternoon. Alexander-Arnold swings a cross in from the right flank, and Mane's powerful header flies past Patricio and into the net.

Teams

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson (Gomez, 84); Fabinho, Henderson (c), Wijnaldum (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 88); Salah, Origi (Milner, 63), Mane

Subs not used: Mignolet (gk), Lovren, Shaqiri, Sturridge

Goals: Mane (18, 81)

Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady (c), Boly; Doherty (Traore, 80), Neves, Dendoncker, Moutinho (Gibbs-White, 84), Otto (Vinagre, 84); Jimenez, Jota

Subs not used: Ruddy (gk), Kilman, Costa, Cavaleiro

Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)

League position

7th (57 points from 38 matches)

Tim Spiers

By Tim Spiers
@tim_spiers_Star

Writes about Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for a living

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